April 28, 2014 – The Wisconsin Supreme Court has added nine cases to its docket, including five criminal cases and a dog bite case to determine whether property owners can be liable for dog bites by dogs they don’t own on property they don’t possess.
The case, Augsburger v. Homestead Mutual Ins. Co., stems from an incident that occurred in 2008. Julie Augsburger was visiting Janet Veith at the Veith family home in Larsen when she was attacked by the family’s dogs. The subsequent lawsuit named Janet Veith and her father, George Kontos.
Kontos purchased the Larsen home for his daughter’s family to live there. Kontos intended to use the property as his own during his retirement in the future. But he didn’t live there, and he did not own the dogs that attacked Augsburger. However, Augsburger said Kontos was also liable because he “harbored” the dogs at the Veith property.
Wis. Stat. section 174.02 places strict liability on dog owners, defined as any person “who owns, harbors, or keeps a dog.” The circuit court ruled for Augsberger, and an appeals court upheld that decision, concluding that Kontos was a statutory “owner.”
Specifically, the appeals court said Kontos allowed the dogs to live there, just like the Veith family, and “harbored” them because he had the power to remove them and did not. The court noted that Kontos was not a landlord. He let the family live there for free.
The appeals court cited a 2012 case decided by the Minnesota Supreme Court, which said liability for harboring dogs does not hinge on whether the person providing lodging and shelter to the dog or dogs also resides at the property where the attack took place.
Other Cases for Review
State v. Wilson: The case examines whether a man convicted of homicide more than 20 years ago was denied a meaningful opportunity to provide a complete defense because the circuit court refused to allow him to introduce evidence that someone else killed the victim.
State v. Tullberg: The sole issue in this case is whether exigent circumstances justified a warrantless blood draw from a man police suspected of driving drunk and being involved in a fatal accident.
Wis. Fed. Of Nurses and Health Professionals v. Milwaukee Co.: This case involves a dispute over whether union members had a vested benefit contract that required the county to reimburse their Medicare Part B premiums when they retire from county employment, even though they were not yet retired when the benefit was eliminated.
State v. Foster: This case examines several issues arising from a drunken driving arrest, including whether a warrantless blood draw was unconstitutional under the circumstances, in light of a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision.
State v. Kennedy: This case examines constitutional issues arising from the arrest and conviction of Alvernest Kennedy on charges of homicide by intoxicated use of a motor vehicle. The Supreme Court will review whether evidence obtained from a warrantless blood draw was admitted in violation of Kennedy’s Fourth Amendment rights.
State v. Gonzalez: This case examines whether ordering a defendant to open his mouth and reveal his platinum teeth to the jury violates the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
State v. Dillard: The case examines whether the bank robbery defendant could withdraw his plea after discovering that a potential penalty enhancer that was dropped as a part of a plea agreement could not have applied to his situation anyway.
118th Street Kenosha LLC v. DOT: This case involves a dispute over the loss of a business’s driveway entrance following a road construction project, and whether the business owner’s method of attempting to recover damages is appropriate. The court will consider arguments and damages relating to a temporary limited easement.
Summaries derived from full summaries posted at www.wicourts.gov.